What are the four founding virtues of our Constitutional Republic?

I recently read Charles Murray's book "Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010". In his book Charles articulates that our uniquely American form of government, society and prosperity are based upon - four virtues. This column draws from his virtues and expands upon them.

America remains the first and oldest Constitutional republic in the world. But I believe neither the Constitution nor the republic can long endure without the founding virtues upon which they are both based.

What are those founding virtues? They are: Industriousness, honesty, marriage and religiosity?

I ask for your patience as I briefly describe each and how we have abandoned them to our great peril. I suggest that if we do not rekindle and restore these founding virtues our national security is at great risk.

Frances Grund, the seventh son of a German Baron educated in Vienna, who immigrated to Philadelphia in 1825, wrote:

“No government could be established on the same principle as that of the United States with a different set of morals. The American Constitution is remarkable for its simplicity; but it can only suffice a people correct in their actions. Change the domestic habits of the Americans, their religious devotion, and their highest respect for morality and it will not be necessary to change a single letter of the Constitution in order to vary the whole form of their government.”


Our Founding Fathers consistently spoke about the virtue of industriousness or what we today call industry or the world of work.

Industry signifies qualities that motivated the Revolution in the first place – a desire not just to be free to speak one’s mind, to practice religion as one saw fit, and to be taxed only with representation, but the bone-deep American assumption that life is to be spent getting ahead through hard work, making a better life for oneself and one’s children. No other America quality has so consistently been seen as exceptional.

Frances Grund wrote, “Active occupation is not only the principal source of [the American’s] happiness, and the foundation of their natural greatness, but they are absolutely wretched without it … It is the very soul of an American; he pursues it, not as a means of procuring comforts of life, but as the foundation of all human contentment.”

Henry Adams, American journalist, historian, academic, novelist and grandson of John Quincy Adams noted, “The penniless and homeless Scotch or Irish immigrant was caught and consumed by it; for every stroke of the axe and the hoe made him a capitalist, and made gentlemen of his children … The instinct of activity, once created, seemed heritable and permanent in the race.”

Today I am concerned that we are rapidly approaching a time where more people vote for a living than work for a living. The uniquely American work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit is being replaced by a mindset based on finding ways of getting something for nothing. What Abraham Lincoln called that old snake, you work and I eat. Coveting what others have is upon us and it threatens our economic and thereby our national security.


The importance of honesty in making a limited government work is self-evident – nothing short of a police state will force people to refrain from crime if they are predisposed otherwise and an assumption that people will follow the rules is indispensable for making a free market work. The founders could see that as easily as you and I can today.

For Thomas Jefferson honesty “Is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

George Washington was himself legendarily honest and twice he included honesty in lists of virtues necessary in the American people.

John Adams noted the difference between the American Revolution and those in France and the Netherlands as, “It is want of honesty; and if the common people in America lose their integrity, they will soon set up tyrants of their own.”

Thomas Jefferson did not worry about assimilating European immigrants to the United States because while they would bring their European vices with them, “these, I think, would soon be diluted and evaporated in a country of plain honesty.”

In the military we have a code of conduct, a brotherhood based upon duty, honor and country. Honesty is honor personified. It is dishonest and immoral for a soldier to betray his country. Honesty remains the soldiers’ armor against the evils we have faced since our founding. We wear the full armor of God. Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan and Communism under the former Soviet Union were at their very core dishonest.

If our soldiers and our leaders become dishonest we face collapse not from an external threat but rather from an internal rotting of our souls where good and evil are relative and conditional. When we reach that point, and some say we already have, then redemption is the only solution. We must all as soldiers of God bow down and ask for the forgiveness of our sins.


Marriage in the United States was seen by our founding fathers as a different kind of union than marriage in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Part of the difference is America’s rejection of arranged marriages. Men courted, but the women accepted or rejected. Understanding that a little girl would eventually have the great responsibility for evaluating prospective mates drove how she was brought up, her education and her critical role in American society.

Count Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:

“If democratic nations leave a woman at liberty to choose her husband … they take care to give her mind sufficient knowledge, and her will sufficient strength, to make so important a choice … Thus American women do not marry until their understandings are exercised and ripened; whereas in other countries most women generally only begin to exercise and ripen their understandings after marriage.”

De Tocqueville concluded his seminal work Democracy in America with this remarkable passage, “If I were asked, now that I am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoken of so many important things done by Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply – to the superiority of their women.”

Today in America traditional marriage is not reinforced but rather is being redefined. If the state absorbs the family then the building block of this nation is eliminated. Marriage is the best and most lasting bond between a man a woman, this is especially so for our military families. We must strengthen marriage and the Church is best able to do that, not the state.


John Adams referred to the Bible as, “The most republican book in the world.”

The Count de Tocqueville summed it up best when he wrote:

“Thus, while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust. Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it. Indeed, it is in this same part of view that the inhabitants of the United States themselves look upon religion – for who can search the human heart? – But I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not particular to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank in society … The American combines the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.”

President Thomas Jefferson wrote, “No nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can it be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has ever been given to man and I as Chief Magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example.”

In closing I quote Catholic philosopher, journalist, novelist, and diplomat Michael Novak who summarized the true health of America as follows:

Liberty is the object of the Republic.

Liberty needs virtue.

Virtue among the people is impossible without religion.

I believe this nation and therefore our national security is based upon the uniquely Christian pillars of industriousness, honesty, marriage and religiosity. To believe otherwise is not in keeping with our beloved Constitution and the republic for which it stands.

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Comment by Walter Cleveland Tune on May 20, 2012 at 1:20pm

These four virtues or tenets are directly attributable to our Judeo-Christian heritage.  The Ten Commandments even include "industriousness."  The Fourth Commandment requires us to work six days but not on the Sabbath.  Honesty is commanded in the Ninth Commandment.  We are not to bear false witness.  Marriage is protected by "Honour thy father and thy mother," and "Thou shalt not commit adultery."  And religiousity is commanded in the first four commandments.  We are to honor God the Creator  as the only true God. 


So the God of Abraham commanded us to follow these four tenets and even added provisions against killing and theft. 

Comment by Eleanor A. Gabriel on May 19, 2012 at 2:41pm

An excellent piece.  Capitalism, which is the economic manifestation of Liberty, requires much the same.  Without honesty, industriousness and religiosity it degenerates into exploitation and greed. It is not Capitalism which has caused our economic problems, but the Godlessness of our society. That is why all the utopian economic systems conceived by the anti-religious will inevitably fail. 

Thanks, Rich, for such an insightful article.

Comment by Don Davison on May 18, 2012 at 8:26pm
It has been said, and yet bears repeating: “We must, if we rationally can choose to survive, keep an omnipresent “pressure on the real.” This is our mandate: “PAY ATTENTION OR DIE”. Nature in her magnificence is honest to the core. Lest we forget she means it, as we develop the umbrella, or envelope, of our omnipresent mediated environment, we must keep a watchful eye on everything all of the time. Neighbors, close and afar, weather, politicians, governments, the list goes on. What part of this do we not understand? And the older we get, for most of us, the more we realize just how important this PAY ATTENTION OR DIE mandate really is. This is an excellent opportunity for our “retired” brothers and sisters, in their heroic attempts to do just that, to exercise their new found skills and start sweeping, mopping, cleansing, polishing, and honing the wonderments and applications of the internet. While many are doing just this, we need legions of the willing to help stem the tide of the malicious, seditious, and insidious. As the old Chinese proverb says, “We must move our chairs closer to the fire to see what we are saying.” or has been said. “Battle on!”
Comment by Neil Thomas Goeckerman on May 18, 2012 at 7:30am

The point of this story is paramount to our Nation. I am so afraid that we are too far gone to recover. I was speaking with an acquaintance and we were discussing a problem we were going to an expert to correct. My acquaintance asked me what should we tell him? I asked what he meant and he replied,

"well what kind of story do we want to make up to get a deal?

"I told him how about we just deal in the truth?"

The point of this story is that very many people are predisposed to lie when the truth is the answer that holds Gods reward.

Comment by Chas Jones on May 18, 2012 at 4:58am

To John Wiant:

Your cousin may be intelligent, but intelligent and smart are not the same thing. I know many highly intelligent, even highly educated, folks who accept, embrace, and believe the most absurd stuff.

Your cousin recommends that our nation emulate the former Yugoslavia. However, the "regional" benefits cited by your cousin are just as obtainable from moving to another street, part of town, or another State ... WITHOUT destroying our nation. I find his suggestions to be anything BUT "smart."

The task facing us is daunting, to be sure. It will require hard, consistent efforts to gradually educate, inform, and persuade the masses of the necessity of God, morality, and honesty. However, it is doable IF we are prepared and willing to do the hard work.

Our pledge of allegiance suggests a sound path. "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all."

I suspect that even today a vast majority of our citizens subscribe to, and agree with our "Pledge of Allegiance."

Perhaps we start there and move to renew their acquaintance with the meaning and history of the Pledge. Citizenship has always seemed to stress our liberty and freedom more than our duties and responsibilities. However, as Citizens, we do have some universal duties and responsibilities that go hand to hand with our "blessings of liberty."

Let us slowly but persistently explore and discuss what we already agree upon ... and build upon that. For I am confident a vast majority of Citizens agree with conservatives Far More Than Any Do With "Left-Liberal-Progressives," let alone the anarchists among us.

Comment by Jo Gonzalez on May 18, 2012 at 4:39am

Excellent post.  Tocqueville viewed us from a European, French to be exact, viewpoint, and put into writing, so long ago, the reasons we would succeed. We were different and the difference was basically Freedom, guided by decent principles, and devotion to God.  We have strayed, a lot of us, to a point to where, "anything goes" with no sense of responsibility, and work being a burden, instead of a privilege. My hopes and prayers for this Country, with new mediums of communicaations, that Americans will look back, at what we have lost, and have enough common sense to realize we'd better turn it around.  I think a Revolution is coming of Decent, God Fearing Patriots, that is going to surprise a whole lot of Liberal Nation Wreckers.

Comment by John Wiant on May 17, 2012 at 11:22pm

I asked my cousin (a VERY smart guy) to weigh in on the 5 or 6 things that might be a good Agenda for the Tea Party, and he wrote pages with very similar observations as the article above.  His conclusion is as follows:

" You asked what I think is the best thing for this country well here it is – split it up.  No longer a united states.  Make New England its own country.  Since the South is still pissed off about the Civil War, they’d jump at the chance to break away from having anything to do with the North.  No one wants New York, so they’d have to be an entity on their own, call it New Place for all I care, and give California back to Mexico, it’s full of Mexicans anyhow.  The states along the Rocky Mountains could be called New Switzerland or Ridge land.   I can tell you New England would have some laws completely different than what governs the country now. Silicon Sister and Mannequin Mister from Hollywood can rule the west coast and the District of Colombia would no longer exist.  People with like minds would gravitate to the region that best suits their preferred way to live.  I hated my neighbors and the way they ruined our lives, but we have a much better life now that we put up a seven foot high fence.  We live our lives, they live theirs.   When one group starts abusing another, it’s time to separate them.  Extreme, I know, but an interesting thought – don’t you think?"

Comment by Chas Jones on May 17, 2012 at 6:48pm

Once again we find examples where judicial cases which were at best within State jurisdiction, yet were elevated to the federal judiciary, where the supreme court then issued an unconstitutional ruling. States and school districts then in classic sheep-like fashion were herded by the barking justices into trampling the inalienable Rights of the people guaranteed and enshrined in the 1st amendment, also known as the supreme Right in our Bill of Rights.

Folks, ALL that is needed is for school districts, County Sheriffs, and State Governors and Attorneys-General to ASSERT their 1st AND 10th amendment Rights and re-enroll God, His WORD, and His TRUTH and Morals back into classrooms and public squares.

Until we are demanding AND acting upon our Rights ... we will continue to be denied them.

Comment by Truckingal on May 17, 2012 at 6:11pm

I'd like to see wider discussion of this book. I've only completed about half of it so far, but Murray makes some good points. However, he assumes only his peers among the liberal elite will read it and thus appear to pull his punches . . .likely doesnt want the kind of controversy that his 'Bell Curve' generated. If one reads it from a conservative viewpoint, it becomes easy to see what the liberal elite have done to disenfranchise the working middle-income and the poor. This is not something they want to admit-and continue to build the walls around their elite enclaves while using their money, connections and status to orchestrate an outside world in their own image. Most of what the majority live with they know nothing about-but continue their efforts at central planning, never realizing they are further impoverishing the working class both monetarily and in spirit. Murray is right-they have failed in their civic responsibility! In terms of society's loss of commitment to the four founding principles listed above, he rightly shows where public education has failed to teach these values after mid 1900s. I wont know until I finish the book if he lays the blame openly on the liberal Progressive movement in educations . . .but I rather doubt it!

Comment by Janet Dobbs on May 17, 2012 at 5:59pm

Unfortunately, our nation is severely lacking in those 4 Christian pillars and is now on life support. We need true patriots to resuscitate our country in order to return to our founding principles.

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